Japanese Female Film Photographers if you don’t know, now you know


by Michael Nguyen /

5 min read
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Japanese Female Film Photographers if you don’t know, now you know
(This post may be considered NSFW) It wasn’t until Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs 6–4, 6–3, 6–3 in 1973’s “Battle of the Sexes” exhibition match that women began to gain respect in tennis and the sports world thereafter.

It’s taken photography some time; there are the Diane Arbuses, Helen Levitts and Vivian Mayers scattered about and women photographers are beginning to get featured more yet over the last ten years, the number of female entrants to the World Press Photo Contest has hovered around 15% (it remained at 15.5% in 2017). Society lacks and does have a need for a female visual perspective.

The situation is of course much more dire on this side of the pond since as we all know, the Japanese photography industry is one big sausage fest *cough*Nikon! The likes of Moriyama, Araki, and Hosoe are pushed to the West but you’d have to find some more hardcore photo buffs that would know the work of Kawauchi, Ishiuchi, and Hara.

I realize that the push for diversity has resulted in many a “token Asian female” if you will, but these women are the real deal folks. And they don’t have colored streaks in their hair. I’d like to introduce some of my current favorite Japanese female photographers that if you hadn’t heard of them, you’ll be glad you did. Oh and yeah, they all shoot film.

Akiko Takizawa

Akiko’s unique look stems from the 150-year-old Collotype printing process which originated in France but has now been all but rendered extinct. For the past few years she has worked with Benrido in Kyoto, the last remaining Collotype company in the world, to produce her prints and the results are astonishing.
Moody with interesting textures, her work explores the Japanese belief that there is not a clear boundary between life and death and with these beautifully surreal images, one cannot discern the difference either.


Hiromi Kakimoto

Rinko Kawauchi is considered by many the queen of 女子カメラ (joshi kamera or female photography) in Japan but in my book Hiromi is no slouch as her dreamy images blur the lines of reality in a similar surreal manner albeit more trippy for a lack of better word. Profound images, they evoke nostalgic emotions of the beauty of childhood. Her creative layers add another unworldly dimension to the images.


Sayaka Maruyama

Feminine beauty oozes in her work as she reminds us to to see beauty in every element of our surroundings. She seek to redefine the definition of traditional beauty and Maruyama layers her subject together with textured flowers and gradients of color to form her captivating and mysterious abstract portraits. I really enjoy her use of colors, full of vibrant sexiness with a hint of melancholy and darkness.


Ariko Inaoka

Ariko explores the magical connection between Icelandic twins Erna and Hrefna as she has been visiting them every summer since 2009 to photograph them and document their progress through adolescence and their special relationship with each other. Per her words:

I often hear that identical twins have telepathic connections between them. This is true with Erna and Hrefna” Inaoka claims. “They are always together. They almost never fight each other. Spending time with them I feel such comfort in their companionship but at the same time I feel strange because I have never seen such a powerful connection between any two human beings. They say to me, ‘We dream same dreams sometimes’.

Beautiful and poetic, you can check out their progress at her site below.


Tokyo Rumando

Tokyo Rumando is the pen name of this ex-model turned photographer and her own vision of sexuality and intimacy that challenge gender boundaries has taken over the dark, eroticised imagery of male photographers such as Nobuyoshi Araki.

In her 2014 work “Orphee,” the artist ‘(un)dresses up’ in front of a giant circular mirror, confronting all the memories, projections, fears and desires reflected behind its surface. She also has an interesting project that enters us into the whacky world of love hotels. We sense the excitement of the first encounter with a lover, the sometimes tragic events that occur, as well as the various questionable sort of nature of the many encounters there.

A bold and intimate look into herself, it’s full of pure emotion. She says, “Changing yourself in order to fit with other people and the circumstances has become quite the norm today, and it’s not just about clothes and make-up. We keep on putting on more and more masks, but the true liberation stands in stripping them off and getting close to the slightest piece of skin underneath.”


Kayo Ume

Kayo has the most amazing reflexes and anticipation because you really scratch your head on how she could catch such spontaneous moments. Magically, Kayo herself is a ninja and remains invisible in these odd encounters with the comic and the tragic of the everyday.

I recall a time in 2014 while walking and having a chat, she deftly whips out her Canon EOS 5 and snaps with a blink of the eye and continues the conversation without breaking stride or the subject noticing.

While there’s Moriyama’s dark photographs of urban dystopia, Kayo’s photographs are the other side of the spectrum; a far brighter, optimistic and also funnier depiction of life in Japan.


Reiko Imoto

Mysterious and surreal are a couple adjectives one could use to describe the images of Reiko Imoto as she thinks of what is seen only within one’s own inner world (personal vision) as “another reality,” and has been working on capturing such internal reality on her photographs. Her works reveal questions about seeing “realities” rather than revealing concrete answers.

Surrealism also definitely reveals it’s influence in her series on dreams as time and space itself appear to be warped. Her moody black-and-white photography elicits ominous and disorienting effects from everyday scenes in city streets or interiors and are well worth the experience.


Mai Narita

Mai’s work can often be seen in the popular culture magazine Papersky but it’s her personal work that is truly intimate with subtle beauty.  She often captures details of spaces or landscapes – images blurring and spilling with light and movement. Her books are starting to gain popularity with it’s vibrant colors and interesting plays of light. Even Rinko Kawauchi has sang her praises.

Wonderful vision with layers of interesting texture, she offers a unique poetic vision. Her images make me reflect on presence and the awareness of interestingly beautiful details in this hectic and crazy world.


Thanks for reading folks, what do y’all think of this selection? By no means is this an exhaustive list; if you’ve believe someone’s been snubbed, feel free to comment below.


9 comments on “Japanese Female Film Photographers if you don’t know, now you know”

    marty January 16, 2018 at 12:50 pm / Reply

    would also like to add to this list Komatsu Hiroko (小松浩子) who is not only a great female Japanese photographer, but also very prolific as well!

    her website is: http://komatsu-hiroko.com/

    Peter January 16, 2018 at 6:12 pm / Reply

    NSFW tag would be usefull

    Richard Tarczaly January 17, 2018 at 2:00 am / Reply

    Perhaps still up and coming; I had the honor to work side by side with Naito Yoko, whom I find phenomenal.

    Her work can be found here: http://www.yokonaito.com/

    Corey January 17, 2018 at 4:08 am / Reply

    You left out two of my favorite Japanese female photographers, Hideka Tonomura and Emi Anrakuji.



    John C January 17, 2018 at 6:38 am / Reply

    Kawori Inbe, Hiromix, Keiko Nomura, Sakiko Nomura, Hideka Tonomura, Mai Tanaka and Rinko Kawauchi are just a few more of a plethora of highly talented female Japanese photographers.

    Michael Penn January 20, 2018 at 10:41 am / Reply

    Love Tokyo Rumando

    Jim Clinefelter January 25, 2018 at 5:00 pm / Reply

    I would add:
    Haruna Sato and Mai Nakama (both of Gallery Kaido)
    Emi Fukuyama
    Sachiko Kadoi
    Sayaka Ikemoto
    Tomona Hayashi
    Tomomi Matsutani
    Asako Narahashi
    Their work/books/zines/websites are just a Google search away^^

    Hami February 6, 2018 at 4:00 pm / Reply

    Tamiko NISHIMURA
    She’s amazing.

    Cheyenne Morrison August 16, 2018 at 2:54 pm / Reply

    Have a look at Mika Ninagawa, for many years she shot with a Contax Aria on film …


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